Holy Week: Breadcrumbs to the Feast
Holy Week: what more can one say? It is a week to be held as unique to all other weeks in the church calendar, the final week of Lent. It is the most significant week in the life of the church because it marks the commemoration of the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the single event upon which all of our beliefs hinge. To cite the Apostle Paul,“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain”—1 Corinthians 15:13-14. Paul saw the resurrection of Jesus as the most vital and pivotal truth of the Christian faith. If there is no resurrection, then why are we wasting our time? But he goes on to say, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead”—1 Corinthians 15:20. Praise God!
Throughout its history, the church has celebrated the resurrection by participating in a physical remembrance of the final week in Jesus’ life, beginning with Palm Sunday and culminating with Easter Sunday. This is sometimes referred to as Passion Week. Holy week observation finds roots in high liturgical tradition. The idea is to provide Christians with a means to connect more viscerally with the sufferings of Jesus.
We use these observances to walk through the suffering of Jesus, remembering his humanity, his pain, his anguish, so that we might more fully grasp the meaning and the power of the Resurrection. Think of it as a trail of bread crumbs leading us to an immense feast! Praise God for Jesus, who left us this path to follow!
This year at Southwood we will be observing a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday Service, and an Easter Sunrise Service in addition to our regular Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday services. What follows is a brief explanation of the heart behind each of these services.
Palm Sunday (April 1)
This is the sixth Sunday of the Lenten season. On this Sunday, we commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. This event in the gospels was marked by large crowds gathered for Passover, who began waving palm branches and proclaiming Jesus as the messianic King. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling one of many messianic prophecies. Palm Sunday is marked by celebratory liturgy, song, and preaching.
Maundy Thursday (April 5)
This observance commemorates the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room. During this meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. It is also where Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. The term “Maundy” comes from the Latin word Mandatum (from which we derive the English word “Mandate”). It means “to give,” “to entrust,” or “to order.” This is referring to the “new commandment” Jesus gave to his disciples after leaving the upper room and walking toward Gethsemane, the garden of Christ’s betrayal: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”—John 13:34-35.
In most Christian traditions, this day is celebrated by the sharing of communion. In addition to this, in some churches the pastor or elders may wash the feet of the congregants. Also, it is traditional for the altar coverings and decorations to be removed after communion is taken. This is to symbolize the abandonment of Jesus by his disciples and the stripping of his garments by the Roman guards. Maundy Thursday service is much more somber in tone than the preceding Palm Sunday.
Good Friday (April 6)
This day commemorates the arrest, trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial of Jesus. As to be expected, this service is very somber and mournful. All altar dressings and those covering the cross are replaced with black. Other decorations are removed and candles extinguished. The focus of this service is to guide the worshipper through the humiliation of Jesus. It will be a contemplative and mournful evening service that ends in darkness and silence. Worshippers leave with no resolution, to wait the coming of Easter Sunday morning.
Easter Sunday (April 8)
Every Christian tradition celebrates this day of Christ’s resurrection in some form. A sunrise service is common in many Protestant traditions and was first observed by the Moravians. Our sunrise service will be outdoors at 6:00 a.m. It will be a shorter service focusing on songs and liturgy to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus before we return for our regular 8:00 and 11:00 Sunday worship services.
Please make an effort to join us for these special services. It will be a truly unique time of contemplation and mourning that will give way to the joy of the resurrection!